Childish Gambino's "This is America" Music Video, Unpacked


Musician, screenwriter, comedian, director, performer, and actor are just a handful of titles that encompass Donald Glover, who is notably recognized by his stage name, Childish Gambino.

Over the weekend Glover debuted two new songs, “This Is America” and “Saturday.” While hosting “Saturday Night Live,” the performer dropped a music video directly to YouTube to accompany his latest single.

Following the release of “This Is America,” the video immediately created major buzz among fans, followers, and critics alike. The video has racked up more than 34 million views on YouTube after 2 days, and many of those viewers have taken to social media to share their interpretations.

A detailed watching of “This Is America” is crucial to unpacking the loaded imagery, symbols, and references that are seen throughout the video.

“This is America” begins with a man seated in a warehouse, playing a guitar. The camera soon finds Glover, who is shirtless in a gold chain necklace and trousers that give off a '70s vibe. He stands behind Calvin the Second, whose head has been covered with a bag, and shoots him with a gun pulled out of his back pocket.

Gambino’s erratic moves and facial expressions, combined with his ever-present troop of uniform clad backup dancers, serve to purposefully distract viewers from everything happening in the background of the video.


Violence and chaos are reoccurring visuals that serve to mimic a black male's point of view.

The next scene shows a joyful choir singing “Get your money, black man, get your money.” Gambino slips out from behind a door, dances in front of the choir,  shoots all 10 singers and walks away. The imagery draws comparison to the 2015 Charleston church massacre, in which attendees were murdered by self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof.


What's happening in the background of the music video is easy to ignore, but if you look closely, there are countless destructive and violent practices taking place. The video projects Glover as the focal point, juxtaposing scattered bodies running in and out of the frame.

Other clips reveal car fires in progress, a man jumping to suicide, a glare of red and blue lights that signify a police presence, and a dreamlike white horse trotting through the madness, all while children from above are standing recording the mayhem on their cellphones. 

Donald Glover aims to portray an America that is obsessed with guns, violence, excessive force and mindless technology. All of these factors are neglected and disregarded because of media-driven distractions, like a new dance craze, or a trending Twitter hashtag. The media's lackluster subject matter serves as a blatant veil that aids in disguising the truth.  


Glover, 34, exemplifies what it means to be a multifaceted, revolutionary artist. Glover catapulted his career by staying true to his art, which subsequently led to a new wave of rap music being born. 

Glover's archive of work exhibits how he continues to grow and evolve as an artist.With three studio albums under his belt, Glover is only just getting started.

His collection of work includes Camp (2011), Because the Internet, (2013) and most recently Awaken, My Love! (2016), which is his most divergent project to date. The album draws heavy influence from Parliament Funkadelic, which has allowed Glover to steps away from his introspective rap and into a new genre.

“This Is America,” directed by Hiro Murai, is a visual wakeup call that depicts America in two lights: Happy and naive or disregarded and subjected to being background noise.

Watch the full music video here and express your thoughts in the comments below.